CASPER, Wyo. — With evacuations almost entirely lifted and all pre-evacuation notices cancelled, a fire management crew of mostly Wyoming land officials now manages what’s left of the Sheep Herder Hill fire.
“A lot of the resources that are going to continue to be on the fire are going back to the locals — the ones that were on the first 48 hours,” said Incident Commander trainee and Casper resident Craig Short.
Even with 100 percent containment, according to Short, the Sheep Herder Hill fire is not entirely out.
“It just means that we’ve shifted priorities,” Short said.
For fire officials, this means focus has moved from fire suppression to securing roads and still-standing structures from hazardous trees, and cooling hot spots around structures and fire lines.
For Casper Mountain residents returning to damaged or destroyed homes, this means thinking about what to do next.
“We’re looking at rebuilding as soon as we can,” said Marlene Ashbaugh, whose cabin of 34 years was left a pile of ash after flames ripped through the property last week. She visited the property with an insurance representative on Saturday.
“Just going up there and seeing it, it’s just so surreal,” Ashbaugh said. “It was like a nuclear blast had hit up there; there was nothing left.”
The fire official who accompanied Ashbaugh to the property said flames in that area of the fire were more than 200 feet tall, according to Ashbaugh.
“There’s no embers, there’s no cinders. It’s ash. That’s what so bizarre,” she said.
Ashbaugh’s property was along Canyon Drive, in the region still under evacuation in the southwest region of the burn area. Continued firefighting activity and burned trees leave this region too hazardous for entry, officials said.
Those few remaining evacuations might be lifted Wednesday, Short said.
Burn areas remain open to residents only, and residents will be required to provide proof of property ownership before passing roadblocks staffed by law enforcement.
“You guys have priority,” Natrona County Emergency Management director Stewart Anderson told evacuees at Monday’s public meeting on the fire. “You’ve been out of your homes, you have damages done.”
Anderson said a heavy rain or quick snowmelt could cause erosion on a post-fire Casper Mountain.
“There’s nothing holding that soil,” Anderson said.
“I am hoping that when winter gets here, that wet snow sticks and stays for a while.”
Temperatures are forecast for the mid-70s this week, with winds lower than what caused the fire’s quick growth a week ago.
“It’s going to warm up, but winds are pretty light,” Short said, “for Wyoming standards at least.”